Black-naped tern

by Low, Eunice

The black-naped tern (Sterna sumatrana) is a slender white bird found in rocky islets near the Singapore coast.1 It was one of the bird species identified and named by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1822. Its species name, sumatrana, describes where Raffles collected the specimen during his naturalist voyages – the island of Sumatra.2

The bird was featured on the S$1 “Bird Series” currency notes issued by the Monetary Authority of Singapore between 1976 and 1984.It also appeared on 15-cent definitive postage stamps placed on sale on 9 November 1966.In 2001, the black-naped tern made another appearance on CashCards issued by the Singapore Mint to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the currency notes.5

Description

This species of terns is a slender bird, with narrow wings and a distinct long, forked tail. Its name is attributed to the presence of a thin black strip extending before its eyes to its lower nape, giving it a masked appearance.6 Its colour is predominantly white, with a pale grey wash on its upper parts.Specimens recorded are about 30 to 35cm in length.8 Both sexes are alike and its breeding plumage can be distinguished by a pinkish tinge on the breast during the breeding season.9 Its legs, feet and bill are black.10 Juveniles have buffy grey or black mottled heads, black napes and pale grey underparts.11 The call is a high-pitched “keeyic” or “kee”, often repeated three or four times.12

Reproduction
Black-naped terns nest in small colonies and usually do not nest with other tern species, although they may be associated with nesting colonies of Roseate terns (Sterna dougalli).13 Their courtship involves courtship feeding and flight displays.14 They lay their eggs directly on rocky surfaces on cliffs, or on the ground in a slight depression above tide level, with no nesting material.15 However, bits of rocks are sometimes used to encircle the eggs.16 One or two eggs are laid and these are light buff or pale greenish in colour with rough blotches of lilac grey, gull grey, dark chestnut brown or black.17

In Singapore, breeding has been recorded on Batu Puteh Ternery, a rocky islet off the northern Changi coast.18 Documents show that black-naped terns have been nesting on the rock since 1949.19 The breeding season is between May and August.20 Eggs are incubated for about 21 to 23 days.21

Diet
This bird feeds on small fish about 4 to 8 cm long, often making shallow plunge-dives into the sea but also fishing from the surface. It is solitary when it feeds.22

Distribution and habitat
There are 44 species of terns worldwide (twelve of which have been recorded in Singapore23) and they are primarily distributed in tropical areas, including much of Southeast Asia.24 The range of the black-naped tern covers the Pacific and Indian oceans, from the Andaman and Nicobar islands to southern Japan and China, and southwards through Southeast Asia, up to Papua New Guinea and parts of north-eastern and eastern Australia.25

Black-naped terns are largely found along stretches of coast with granite boulders or rocky outcrops off the shore, not more than a few hundred metres from the larger landmass.26

In Singapore, the bird can be sighted off Changi Point and Pulau Ubin.27 Its presence has been recorded on other offshore islands such as  Pulau Brani, Kusu Island, Sentosa, and St John's Island.28

Conservation
The population of black-naped terns in Singapore is generally in decline.29 In 2008, its population was estimated to be about 100.30 Today, the bird is seldom encountered, and the probability of encountering it at its preferred habitats is less than 50 percent.31 Furthermore, its only known breeding site is not protected from human disturbance.32 As at 2008, it was classified nationally as Endangered.33

Variant names

Malay: Camar Tengkuk Hitam;34 Burong Chamar Sumatera;35 Chamar.36
Chinese: 黑枕燕鸥 (hei zhen yan ou)37



References
1. Briffett, C. (1993). The birds of Singapore. Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 598.295757 BRI)
2. Raffles, T. S. (1822). Second part of the descriptive catalogue of a zoological collection made in the island of Sumatra and its vicinity. The transactions of the Linnean Society of London Volume XIII, 277–340. London: Richard Taylor, Shoe Lane, pp. 329–330. Retrieved from Wiley Online Library: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1095-8339.1821.tb00065.x
3.
Board of Commissioners of Currency, Singapore (1994). Singapore Money BookSingapore: Moneyworld Asia, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING 769.5595957 SIN); Nathan, D. (1993, June 16). Nature Society wants Khatib Bongsu and Senoko conservedThe Straits Times, p. 19; Bird-series Cashcards, new coin set launched. (2001, July 20). The Straits Times, p. 5; Page 5 Advertisements Column 2: ‘Save a little everyday’ and know your $1 note. (1985, August 21). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Ministry of Culture. (1966, June 30). New Singapore definitive postage stamp. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/ Singapore Postage Stamps Catalogue (3rd ed.). (2011). Singapore: CS Philatelic Agency, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 769.5695957 SPSC)
5. Bird-series Cashcards, new coin set launched. (2001, July 20). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. King, B. F., & Dickinson, E. C. (1975). Birds of South-east Asia: Covering Burma, Malaya, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Hong Kong. London: Collins, p. 163. (Call no.: RSEA 598.2989 KIN); Wells, D. R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Covering Burma and Thailand south of the eleventh parallel, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. Vol. 1, Non-passerines. San Diego, California: Academic Press, p. 315. (Call no.: RSING 598.0959 WEL); Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); Briffett, C. (1993). The birds of Singapore. Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 598.295757 BRI)
7. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON)
8. Del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A., & Sargatal, J. (Eds.). (1996). Handbook of the birds of the world. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, p. 652. (Call no.: R 598.29 HAN); Madoc, G. C. (1947). An introduction to Malayan birds. Kuala Lumpur: Malayan Nature, p. 19. (Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 MAD-[GBH]); Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON)
9. King, B. F., & Dickinson, E. C. (1975). Birds of South-east Asia: Covering Burma, Malaya, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Hong Kong. London: Collins, p. 163. (Call no.: RSEA 598.2989 KIN); Madoc, G. C. (1947). An introduction to Malayan birds. Kuala Lumpur: Malayan Nature, p. 21. (Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 MAD-[GBH])
10. Tweedie, M. W. F. (1970). Common birds of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur: Longman Malaysia, p. 4. (Call no.: RSEA 598.29595 TWE); Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); King, B. F., & Dickinson, E. C. (1975). Birds of South-east Asia: Covering Burma, Malaya, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Hong Kong. London: Collins, p. 163. (Call no.: RSEA 598.2989 KIN)
11. King, B. F., & Dickinson, E. C. (1975). Birds of South-east Asia: Covering Burma, Malaya, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Hong Kong. London: Collins, p. 163. (Call no.: RSEA 598.2989 KIN); Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1950). Notes on the sea birds breeding in Malayan waters. Singapore: Raffles Museum, p. 29. (Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 GIB-[GBH]); Del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A., & Sargatal, J. (Eds.). (1996). Handbook of the birds of the world. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, p. 652. (Call no.: R 598.29 HAN)
1
2. King, B. F., & Dickinson, E. C. (1975). Birds of South-east Asia: Covering Burma, Malaya, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Hong Kong. London: Collins, p. 163. (Call no.: RSEA 598.2989 KIN)
13. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1950). Notes on the sea birds breeding in Malayan waters. Singapore: Raffles Museum, p. 24. (Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 GIB-[GBH]); Del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A., & Sargatal, J. (Eds.). (1996).  Handbook of the birds of the world. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, p. 652. (Call no.: R 598.29 HAN)
14. Deng, S. H., Lee, T. K., & Wee, Y. C. (2008). Black-naped Terns (Sterna Sumatrana Raffles, 1822) mobbing a Grey Heron (Ardea Cinerea Linnaeus, 1758). Nature in Singapore. Retrieved 2019, July 18 from National University of Singapore website: https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/dna/docs/5bf617e665a197d4aa787f2f7c826319.pdf
15. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1950). Notes on the sea birds breeding in Malayan waters. Singapore: Raffles Museum, p. 27. (Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 GIB-[GBH])
16. Madoc, G. C. (1947). An introduction to Malayan birds. Kuala Lumpur: Malayan Nature, p. 19. (Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 MAD-[GBH]); Tweedie, M. W. F. (1970). Common birds of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur: Longman Malaysia, p. 4. (Call no.: RSEA 598.29595 TWE)
17. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1950). Notes on the sea birds breeding in Malayan waters. Singapore: Raffles Museum, p. 27. (Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 GIB-[GBH]); Madoc, G. C. (1947). An introduction to Malayan birds. Kuala Lumpur: Malayan Nature, p. 19. (Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 MAD-[GBH]); Tweedie, M. W. F. (1970). Common birds of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur: Longman Malaysia, p. 4. (Call no.: RSEA 598.29595 TWE); Wells, D. R. (c1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Covering Burma and Thailand south of the eleventh parallel, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore: Vol. 1, Non-passerines. San Diego, California: Academic Press, p. 315. (Call no.: RSING 598.0959 WEL); Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON)
18. Nathan, D. (1993, June 16). Nature Society wants Khatib Bongsu and Senoko conservedThe Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); Briffett, C. (1993). The birds of Singapore. Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 598.295757 BRI)
19. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON)
20. Madoc, G. C. (1947). An introduction to Malayan birds. Kuala Lumpur: Malayan Nature, p. 19. (Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 MAD-[GBH]); Tweedie, M. W. F. (1970). Common birds of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur: Longman Malaysia, p. 4. (Call no.: RSEA 598.29595 TWE); Deng, S. H., Lee, T. K., & Wee, Y. C. (2008). Black-naped Terns (Sterna Sumatrana Raffles, 1822) mobbing a Grey Heron (Ardea Cinerea Linnaeus, 1758). Nature in Singapore. Retrieved 2019, July 18 from National University of Singapore website: https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/dna/docs/5bf617e665a197d4aa787f2f7c826319.pdf
21.
Deng, S. H., Lee, T. K., & Wee, Y. C. (2008). Black-naped Terns (Sterna Sumatrana Raffles, 1822) mobbing a Grey Heron (Ardea Cinerea Linnaeus, 1758). Nature in Singapore. Retrieved 2019, July 18 from National University of Singapore website: https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/dna/docs/5bf617e665a197d4aa787f2f7c826319.pdf
22. Del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A., & Sargatal, J. (Eds.). (1996). Handbook of the birds of the world. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, p. 652. (Call no.: R 598.29 HAN)
23. Ng, P. K. L., Corlett, R. T. & Tan, H. T. W. (2011). Singapore Biodiversity: An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, p. 479. (RSING 333.95095957 SIN)
24. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); Del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A., & Sargatal, J. (Eds.). (1996).  Handbook of the birds of the world. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, p. 624. (Call no.: R 598.29 HAN)
25. King, B. F., & Dickinson, E. C. (1975). Birds of South-east Asia: Covering Burma, Malaya, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Hong Kong. London: Collins, p. 163. (Call no.: RSEA 598.2989 KIN); Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); Del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A., & Sargatal, J. (Eds.). (1996). Handbook of the birds of the world. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, p. 652. (Call no.: R 598.29 HAN); Lim, K. S. (2009). The avifauna of Singapore. Singapore: Nature Society (Singapore) & Bird Group Records Committee, p. 203. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 LIM)
26. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1950). Notes on the sea birds breeding in Malayan waters. Singapore: Raffles Museum, p. 24. (Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 GIB-[GBH]); King, B. F., & Dickinson, E. C. (1975). Birds of South-east Asia: Covering Burma, Malaya, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Hong Kong. London: Collins, p. 163. (Call no.: RSEA 598.2989 KIN); Wells, D. R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Covering Burma and Thailand south of the eleventh parallel, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore: Vol. 1, Non-passerines. San Diego, California: Academic Press, p. 315. (Call no.: RSING 598.0959 WEL)
27. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); Anonymous. (2007, July). Singapore: A tropical micro-dot island with colourful birds and a macro wonder world. PSA Journal, 73(7), 28–33. Retrieved from ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; National Parks Board, (2013). Flora Fauna Web – Animal Detail – Sterna sumatrana Raffles, 1822. Retrieved from National Parks Board website: https://florafaunaweb.nparks.gov.sg/Special-Pages/animal-detail.aspx?id=272
28. Lim, K. S. (2009). The avifauna of Singapore. Singapore: Nature Society (Singapore) & Bird Group Records Committee, p. 203. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 LIM)
29. Wells, D. R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Covering Burma and Thailand south of the eleventh parallel, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore: Vol. 1, Non-passerines. San Diego, California: Academic Press, p. 316. (Call no.: RSING 598.0959 WEL)
30. Deng, S. H., Lee, T. K., & Wee, Y. C. (2008). Black-naped Terns (Sterna Sumatrana Raffles, 1822) mobbing a Grey Heron (Ardea Cinerea Linnaeus, 1758). Nature in Singapore. Retrieved 2019, July 18 from National University of Singapore website: https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/dna/docs/5bf617e665a197d4aa787f2f7c826319.pdf
31. Lim, K. S. (1999). Pocket checklist of the birds of the Republic of Singapore. Singapore: Nature Society (Singapore), Bird Group Records Committee, p. 38. Available via PublicationSG.
32. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); Lim, K. S. (1999). Pocket checklist of the birds of the Republic of Singapore. Singapore: Nature Society (Singapore), Bird Group Records Committee, p. 38. Available via PublicationSG.
33. Davison, G. W. H., Ng, P. K. L. & Ho, H. C. (2008). The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened Plants & Animals of Singapore. Singapore: Nature Society, p.183. (Call no.: RSING 591.68095957 SIN)
34. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON)
35. Wells, D. R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Covering Burma and Thailand south of the eleventh parallel, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore: Vol. 1, Non-passerines. San Diego, California: Academic Press, p. 315. (Call no.: RSING 598.0959 WEL)
36. Madoc, G. C. (1947). An introduction to Malayan birds. Kuala Lumpur: Malayan Nature, p. 19. (Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 MAD-[GBH]); Tweedie, M. W. F. (1970). Common birds of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur: Longman Malaysia, p. 4. (Call no.: RSEA 598.29595 TWE)
37. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. Oxford, England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON)


Further resources

Robson, C. (2015). Birds of South-East Asia (2nd ed.). London, Christopher Helm, p. 345. (RSING 598.0959 ROB)



Author
Eunice Low



The information in this article is valid as at July 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Sterna--Singapore
Science and technology>>Zoology>>Endangered animals
Wildlife
Science and technology>>Zoology>>Birds
Birds on postage stamps
Nature>>Animals
Birds in numismatics